County notes 9/5/13

WashCo_logoBudget workshops end; preliminary levy vote Tuesday

The Washington County Board of Commissioners wrapped up workshops on the 2014 budget Tuesday and will vote on a preliminary levy Tuesday.

The county Housing and Redevelopment Authority presented its $3.432 million budget to commissioners Tuesday, almost $100,000 more than the agency received in 2013.

The added funds would go toward HRA’s capital improvement program for current projects and the GROW program, which helps finance affordable housing or redevelopment initiatives. The HRA request would increase taxes on an average valued home about 30 cents.

HRA promotes community and economic development and works with private landlords and non-profit agencies to provide affordable senior housing, maintains a portfolio of affordable and senior housing, and provides foreclosure and home-buyer education.

HRA has 1,030 affordable and senior housing units and provided more than 500 households with rental assistance in the last year. The agency also counseled 2,960 households regarding foreclosure since 2008 and averted more than 1,500 foreclosures.
With budget workshops concluded, commissioners will set the 2014 preliminary levy at their 9 a.m. Tuesday meeting. Once the preliminary levy is set, commissioners can lower it, but they cannot raise it, according to state law.

Tuesday’s meeting is in the fifth-floor board room at the Government Center in Stillwater.

The board will hold a evening public hearing on the 2014 levy and county budget in December and adopt a final levy and budget later that month.

Board extends transport contract

A cooperative agreement among Washington County and several area counties to provide non-emergency medical transportation to eligible residents was extended by the Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

It is estimated the county will spend about $115,000 under the agreement with Anoka, Chisago, Dakota, Hennepin, Isanti, Ramsey and Sherburne counties that runs through Dec. 31, 2014. The pact was scheduled to end Dec. 31.

The counties entered the agreement and selected Medical Transportation Management (MTM) after the 2009 state Legislature ended the state-funded non-emergency medical transportation in 11 metro-area counties.

In the first seven months of the year, county residents using the service made an average of 2,600 trips per month by an average of 231 unique users. Overall 2013 use is down slightly because of increased enrollment into managed care programs.

State and federal funds pay transportation cost of each trip brokered by MTM. MTM is paid $5.54, with 51 percent county funds and 49 percent state and federal money.

Board approves security pacts

Agreements to have the Washington County Sheriff’s Office join a new drug task force and accepting a cyber security grant were accepted by the Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

The first agreement between the WCSO and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration creates a new investigative task force focusing on large-scale pharmaceutical drug diversion.
One WCSO deputy will be assigned to the task force. The DEA provides transportation, equipment, office space, technical and administrative aid and covers any overtime costs up to more than $17,000.

The task force will work out of the DEA’s Minneapolis headquarters and investigate diversion, illegal distribution and theft of pharmaceutical drugs by doctors, pharmacies and other health-care providers.

Under the cyber-security grant agreement, the county receives about $53,000 from MN.IT Services as part of the Minnesota Statewide Security Monitoring Initiative. The state Department of Public Safety Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division is sponsoring cyber-security monitoring initiatives for state, county and local government agencies.

The grant provides funds to buy, install and maintain information technology security monitoring equipment for two years. MN.IT Services also provides a security monitoring analysis for all participating agencies.

After two years, the agreement makes local agencies  responsible for annual equipment maintenance. The county would assume more than $17,000 annually in maintenance costs starting in 2015.

The project’s purpose is to effectively combat information technology security threats and safeguard information resources.

Compiled by Erik Sandin – erik.sandin@ecm-inc.com

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